Fonterra asked to listen and reply
20th Mar 09, 11:27am
A dairy farming couple's letter of concern to Fonterra about board and management decisions has grown into a major campaign, with them receiving "hundreds and hundreds" of phone calls writes The ODT. Kevin and Andrea Marsh, of Bay of Plenty, aired their concerns in Farmers Weekly last week and support has been such that they expect to have the required numbers within three weeks to force an extraordinary general meeting of the company. Since August, Fonterra had made decisions which Mrs Marsh said were not expected by a co-operatively owned company, but which seemed designed to strengthen Fonterra's balance sheet at the expense of farmers' balance sheets. Shareholders were angry at Fonterra's decision to stop accepting milk under contract, meaning farmers had to buy one share for each kg of milk solids (kg/ms) they supplied. Mrs Marsh said there was also anger the co-operative removed the share buffer, which allowed farmers to supply a portion of milk for which they did not own shares. This meant farmers were not penalised if there was a particularly productive season. The payment schedule had also been changed, with settlement payments being made later in the year, affecting farmer cashflows. "All these decisions have put many businesses in precarious positions," Mrs Marsh said. She said the letter of concern to Fonterra chairman Henry van der Heyden initially went unanswered, so she released it to a farming newspaper which published it, provoking an unexpected reaction from farmers. "We have had hundreds and hundreds of phone calls.